BlackJack on being anti-monarchy and unapologetic of their Identities: Interview

Manchester’s favourite alternative venue just off Oxford Road, The Deaf Institute, housed the rude and rebellious BlackJack supporting The Nightmares on their Manchester leg of their UK tour.

I was attending this gig solo, and because of this decided to arrive nice and early. I was greeted by the friendly face of BlackJack, Joey Rubbish. Contradicting her commanding stage presence, it was lovely being able to chat with Joey before BlackJack went on stage because it showed the complete duality of this band’s on stage persona compared with their personalities. The Lodge of Deaf Institute was full of punks, goths, and other alternative crowds of all ages. It was emphasised throughout the night that this gig, along with any other BlackJack gigs, are intended to be safe spaces for queer, trans, and alternative people.

The band consists of their leading lady Joey Rubbish who is accompanied by her bassist Lola, their drummer Tommy Trouble, their guitarist Danny Dustbin, and their ex bass player and current guitarist Dr Travis Titanium Bellend the Third (aka Dr Travis).

BlackJack next took to the stage, captivating people away from the conversation and compelling not one person in the room to be stood still. The band’s aggressively left-wing lyrics make their positioning within the political climate crystal clear. Their use of raw instrumentation is really effective in replicating the sound of original punk music. They attempt to stay away from overproduction and let the instruments speak for themselves. Joey Rubbish’s strong voice easily commands over her bandmate’s loud instruments creating an angry, passionate setlist full of screaming, swearing, and loud complaints about the Tory party in the UK. When talking with Joey about this before they went on, she explained that:

 “Being quiet gets you nowhere anymore. Shouting gets attention.”

Once BlackJack hopped off stage, we ran out of the sweaty mosh pits into the smoking area and all of the members of BlackJack came to give their take on being anti-monarchy and unapologetic of their queer identities.

Where does blackjack fit in the Manchester music scene?
Joey Rubbish:
“We are a weird mix of sounds and aesthetics, it’s still something we want to pin down, we are pretty well known in the scene but want to branch out into subgenres.”

Dr Travis: “We have had people come and go for two years now, so many different genres and styles that now we all just aesthetically present how we feel most comfortable, it’s all about the sound rather than how a product looks. It’s the kind of scene where you either like it or you don’t.”

Talking inspiration

Which bands and genres are your main inspirations?
Tommy Trouble:
“My inspiration is mainly from the emo and hardcore scene”

Danny Dustbin: “I am inspired by the music I listen to, I can’t remember a single fucking band now you ask. I sometimes play like the geezer from My Chemical Romance.”

Dr Travis: “When I played bass my main inspiration was absolutely any punk bassist. Now I play guitar, my inspiration is myself. I’ve never played guitar in a punk band but I’m figuring out what sounds sick.”

Joey Rubbish: “I like lots of different music, I really like Death Grips, MC Ride for lyricism purposes. The Replacements definitely inspired “Mama Said”. I was listening to a lot of their stuff at the time. This was our first live demo release and we still love it”

I think that’s one of your most powerful songs. The way you have taken something that’s traumatic for you and turned it into an empowering song is really something to be admired.

Joey Rubbish: “Thank you!”

Lola: “I am new to the band so I would say my main inspiration is BlackJack. I have been following these guys for two years before they let me join the fucking band, but I feel inspired to play with these guys so it would have to be them!”

Where do you see yourself in two years time?
Joey Rubbish: “We all want to be stinking rich with massive houses and massive cars and to redistribute our wealth to those less fortunate, you’re never going to see the common man ever again.”

Dr Travis: “Actually I would like to be a janitor for a school and take psychedelics in the toilets.”

Tommy Trouble: “You’re going to die young.”

Danny Dustbin: “I think that’s the best outcome. Everyone famous dies young.”

Not you guys though! You have too much music to release.

The Progression of Punk Youth bands

Who would you say your target audience is?
Joey Rubbish: “Just playing to whoever’s in the room, we don’t target a group specifically we just make music for the people who get it, following our same politics, and you either align with it or you don’t. We don’t like making excuses for people and we don’t like to address these topics politely. “Hierarchy” is a pretty good example of how we feel about our current government, and some people won’t agree, that’s fine, we aren’t playing for them.”

Any more themes for lyrics and songwriting?
Dr Travis: “We want to talk about poverty, working every day, having to spend £4 on the bus here, spending more money going to all the rehearsals, going to gigs – everything costs money. Being working class and living in poverty is the main reason I started writing punk music because we’re fuckin bored of it. It’s a system of oppression made to keep the rich rich and the poor poorer, we like shouting about how we disagree.”

Joey Rubbish: “I definitely think because I’m trans and it’s a relevant social issue, trans people are targeted openly by the government, and this issue while it isn’t comparable to other systems of oppression, we are all aiming at the same target, we all have a common enemy. I am trying to write some words to change some people’s minds and have fun doing it.”

And you get to two-step!
How would you convince someone to listen to BlackJack?
Dr Travis: “Go to a shit bar in Manchester and hear a shit punk band talk about a shit government – what’s not to love?”

Danny Dustbin: “Open your ears and hearts to our love and hate and you will be engulfed in it, it will feel great we promise!”

Are there any bands you have dreamed of touring with?
Joey Rubbish: “Moth Slut and The Nightmares tour in the future would be amazing and something to look forward to, we have loved performing alongside them!”

Dr Travis: “I want to go on a tour with the Dead Kennedys”

Joey Rubbish: “But Jello Biafra left the band didn’t he?”

Dr Travis: “But still.”

A reunion tour powered by BlackJack perhaps?
Dr Travis: “That’s the dream.”

What are your next steps?
Joey Rubbish: “We have some recordings ready, we want to get release dates sorted to push them out, we have several gigs on the horizon. Headlining Castle Hotel and OJ sessions in April. A lot of exciting things are coming which we can’t wait to see you all at!”

Any final messages?
Joey Rubbish: “We love you.”

Dr Travis: “I say we hate you, but we hate ourselves even more, yeah? I blew in from Doomsville. We hate you but we love you so much.”

Drummer: “Love you, be happy everyone.”

Lola: “Thank you so much for interviewing us!”

My pleasure!

You can enjoy this lovely band’s music on Spotify and Apple Music, and find their brilliant music video for “Hierarchy” out on YouTube. If it’s gritty raw instrumentals paired with a melodic commanding voice, BlackJack is a band you should listen to. Old punks, new punks, trans and queer people, unite in supporting BlackJack on their journey to eradicate bigotry.

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Photographer: Eliza Waite

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